Checkpoint Charlie Case Study
No one was sure how to react to it. Some Westerners saw it as a non-issue that would at least stop the flow of refugees from East to West. Others seemed to think it was a prelude to war. Free access to all sectors of Berlin had always been a right of the people of Berlin particularly the diplomats. However, the wall restricted access by people from the West through three checkpoints and the Allied diplomats and other foreign nationals through one checkpoint. That Checkpoint was in Friedrichstrasse and was called by the American soldiers, “Checkpoint Charlie.” It was this restriction that produced the final signpost on the way to the confrontation.
On 22 October, Allan Lightner, the senior US Diplomat to West Berlin, and his wife tried to cross into East Berlin to visit a theater. They were in a diplomatic car with proper State Department license plates but were still stopped and detained by the East German guards who insisted that they show identification. Lightner contacted General Lucius Clay, the special adviser in West Berlin, for backup and Clay sent an American platoon, four M-48 tanks, and three personnel carriers to the checkpoint. Finally, eight US soldiers escorted Lightner through to East